At least four bears have wandered into the city over the past few weeks, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The most recent sighting was Wednesday morning, near the Yellowknife Airport fire hall off Deh Cho Boulevard. Previous to that, two were put down and one was relocated along Highway 3. This is after a slew of sightings around town, including the dump, Jackfish Lake, Old Airport Road and a sighting of bear scat on Tin Can Hill.
According to Bruno Croft, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) superintendent for the North Slave region, it is unusual to see this many bears wander into Yellowknife at this time of year.
“Past reports indicate the majority of problem bear occurrences normally take place later in August and September,” he stated via e-mail, adding he isn’t sure of the reason is for the spike. “Most bears observed in Yellowknife over the last while appear to be well fed young animals, learning how to forage for themselves.”
One bear had to be shot at the dump on July 25 while the other was put down on the airport tarmac on Aug. 1, according to ENR spokesperson Dawn Curtis. In both incidents, Croft said the animals posed a direct threat to public safety.
“The decision to put down the animals was made after continued attempts to either live capture or scare the animals away,” he stated, adding the decision to kill bears is reserved as a last resort.
A live trap had been set up at the airport as of Wednesday in an attempt to catch the bear that was seen most recently.
Curtis stated in an e-mail that when feasible, biological samples and measurements are taken from the bear and then carcasses are disposed of at the waste management facility.
This spike in bear sightings this summer is not limited to Yellowknife. Croft stated other regions have seen more bears near communities and, according to media reports, at least six bears have been put down in populated areas of the Yukon since late July.
Croft reminded residents and tourists to be aware of bears and to properly dispose of items that can attract them such as garbage, pet food and residue on barbecues.
In the midst of the citywide sightings, Devon Bouillon and Janice Connors were walking their dog Titan at Tin Can Hill last Friday, despite a sign at the entrance warning people a bear had been seen in the area just two days previous.
Adrian Lizotte, manager of wildlife for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) – North Slave region, suggested to Yellowknifer last week that dog walkers should keep their pets on their leash as a precaution.
However, Bouillon said he believed letting his pet roam off his leash might help keep bears at bay.
“If anything, the dog will spook the bear before we get to him,” he said, adding he is from Sudbury, Ont., so he’s used to bears.
“I grew up around bears – splitting wood or working out in the woods. If you leave the bear alone they are usually not aggressive. If it is springtime or late fall and they were hungry then they might come a little closer but for the most part they just stay away.”
Yellowknifer checked back with Bouillon on Tuesday. He said he was again at Tin Can Hill over the long weekend and saw many other people walking their dogs there.